Sunday, 11 March 2012

Nesactium: Of Pirates and Kings

Nesactium (Vizace to local Istrians) is the site an ancient hillfort near the city of Pula.  Occupied by a people called the Histri (or Istri, hence the name for the entire peninsula) for a millennia before the Romans came along, it was a goldmine at the turn of the century for archaeologists.  The many culturally and historically crucial items found here were a large part of the impetus for creating the Archaeological Museum of Istria, in Pula.

Visitors to the site walk in through an ancient Roman gate, to the compound dot the town still lined by venerable stone walls.
This gate is further south of the main entrance, and dates to the 6th Century BC.  It is part of the remaining pre-Roman structures built by the Histri, a people noted for their piracy skills.  They were evidently skilled in their line of work -they provoked Rome enough to incur their wrath and a major battle took place here in 177 BC.

Seeing that they were losing, the men killed the women and children and threw them over the fortified walls.  Any who remained were sold into slavery, effectively erasing the cultural identity of the Histri who remained.

Visitors can freely walk about the ruins.  The ancient workings of archaic plumbing for a Roman bathhouse are visible, and many of the trenches for running water are present in various places.

A cistern remains fairly intact, as well as the foundations of 2 churches dating from the mid 6th century.

A prehistoric necropolis (cemetery) was found, with pottery and numerous burial goods which are now housed in the museum in Pula.

Some of the homes from Roman times, their lower portions accessed by recessed stairs, are situated around the  town wall perimeter.  Some of the stones are scorched by the fires of long ago.  It was easy to imagine a family sitting down to a simple meal, talking about their day, catching up on local gossip by the warm hearth.  The sun shone so warmly that day.  Peace was tangible, like a warm blanket.  It was hard to imagine the screams of the dying and the crash of Roman boots.

The afternoon being so fine, we wandered freely about on the hillside behind the fort walls.  We were the only visitors.  I had been daydreaming about life and love and all things Histri when I noticed that I had been left behind by my companions.  Jogging to catch up, delicious scents rose all around me.   Stopping, curious, I made a pleasant discovery.

We were walking on herbs!  Each step crushed an aromatic and defenseless mint, or thyme, or oregano plant.  Stooping to find the best specimens, we picked to our heart's content to flavour our supper!

The beauty all around us, the stillness of the sleeping memories in the air, the reverent awe at seeing and being in the midst of a history that old, that complex,  made for an afternoon I will not soon forget.

The historical significance of this area, and the workings of both the Bronze and Iron Age, and the Roman occupation in this area, make for a fascinating read.  You will find some excellent information at the link below, and on many websites if you choose to do some digging on your own.

My thanks to for increasing my understanding of Nesactium and its attractions.

You can also find more information here:


  1. It was an awesome experience. I'll never forget stepping on all those sweet-smelling herbs!

  2. How neat! I can only imagine the amazing fragrance!